Political Grapevine: A Repentant Rather

CBS News is insisting that Dan Rather's participation in a Texas Democratic Party fund-raiser was an oversight.

Rather concedes that yes, he was the featured speaker at the event March 21 in Austin for which contributors paid as much as $1,000 to attend. And he told The Washington Post that yes, once he got there, he knew it was a fundraiser and went ahead with it anyway. And now, after first declining to do so, he says, "it was a serious mistake... I made an embarrassing and regrettable error in judgment by going to this event."

Ballot Box Abuse

The Miami Herald reports that one thing the recount it did along with USA Today showed, was that some Florida voters spoiled their ballots in remarkable ways. For example, the paper says one voter used clear nail polish to paste a chad back into a ballot.

Others used tape. And one voter managed to vote twice for president -- an overvote -- but missed the mark in both cases, making his ballot an undervote as well.

Please Stop Saying Grace!

The ACLU is demanding that Virginia Military Institute drop the saying of grace before dinner, something the state-supported school practices six nights a week. The ACLU says students should at least be allowed to opt out of hearing the blessing, and the group is prepared to take VMI to court.

VMI Superintendent General Josiah Bunting says the U.S. constitution, "does not prohibit our saying grace before supper, and we will continue to do so."

Two students have joined in the request that the prayers at least be made non-mandatory. Such prayers are also said before lunch at the Naval Academy and at West Point, but only before formal dinners.

How to Make Friends and Influence People

Finally, Yasser Arafat, it turns out, gave Bill and Hillary Clinton gifts worth more than $12,000, including more than $7,000 worth of jewelry last year.

The gifts noted in documents printed in the Federal Register were first reported by The New York Observer, which also noted that the Palestinian leader last year gave Secretary of State Madeleine Albright jewelry worth more than $17,000.

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